Sky-blue aster (Aster azureus) is just coming into bloom–the second aster to bloom in my garden this year. Fall blooming is late this year: New England asters, boltonia, and goldenrods are all still just showing buds. Sky-blue aster, like all members of the genus but even more so, is a favorite food of rabbits, so only a few manage to bloom in my garden. This one is tucked in back of some taller plants, among some little bluestem grass, and it just manages to poke its flowering stalk toward the front of the border each year. This is my favorite aster–the color is exquisite, and this photo doesn’t do it justice, You’ll just have to grow it for yourself. It’s low-growing, likes full sun, and isn’t fussy about soil.
If you are a person who fertilizes your lawn, this is the time to do it, around Labor day. I do not advocate fertilizing lawns, preferring to use a mulching mower instead and nourish grass plants with their own excess growth, but if you feel you absolutely must, do it only now, around Labor Day, and use an organic product. This is a good time because warm-season grasses are still growing actively and cool-season grasses are about to begin an active growth period, so the products you use are most likely to actually be taken up by the plants and used, rather than washed away.
Here are some other things you should do in the garden this week:
– plant your fall vegetable garden: cool-weather crops such as lettuce, arugula, peas, and mustards (brassicas).
– keep the grass long (3″ or more) to reduce mowing times. Mow with a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the lawn, where they will serve as natural fertilizer. There is no need to fertilize or water. We received a bit less than 1″ of rain this week.
– as perennials finish blooming, leave the dead flowers on the plants. Collect seeds as they ripen; let most remain to feed the birds next winter. For most perennials, I will not remove any growth until early next spring.
– harvest squash and beans before they get large and tough. Pull up bean plants when they stop producing. Pull up and discard (do not compost) warm-weather plants such as cucumbers, squash, and beans that are attacked by insects or disease.
– continue to stake tomato plants firmly as they grow and remove all suckers. While plants are producing fruit, cut back on watering to prevent cracking. If the weather continues hot and we get no rain next week, you might give an inch of water.
– identify pests before taking action: most insects are harmless or beneficial, and many harmful ones can be easily removed by hand-picking. Expect pest populations to decline naturally as the weather cools down.
– take advantage of the relatively cool weather to do garden chores: carry out remedial or cosmetic pruning as needed.
Enjoy the long weekend, the last one of summer, in the garden!